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Introducing “Responsive Search Ads” from Google

During the 2018 Google Marketing Live event, Google announced a multitude of new tools and features across the Google Ads ecosystem. A few of these really caught my attention, so today we’ll be taking a look at one of the new ad types with tons of potential: responsive search ads. With the roll-out of this new search ad format, Google continues to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to help advertisers achieve better performance.

Introducing “Responsive Search Ads” from Google

What are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads are Google’s latest innovation in a series of internet marketing related initiatives centered around using their powerful machine learning technology to simplify and automate ad optimization. This new ad type enables advertisers to automatically test and optimize ad copy, and then deliver the most effective combinations.

With responsive search ads, advertisers supply a variety of headlines and descriptions, and Google’s platform will automatically test different combinations and arrangements of these components. Over time, Google’s digital brain understands which combinations will deliver the best message for each individual user based on search terms, search intent, device type, past browsing behavior and more.

Without a doubt, Google’s responsive search ads are a powerful new tool for search marketers, so let’s take a closer.

Why should I use responsive search ads?

As the variety of digital advertising tools and internet marketing platforms continues to grow, it can be challenging to decide which ones to use and where to focus marketing resources. So why do responsive search ads deserve the attention of marketers? With responsive search ads, you can expect better performance for several reasons.

Machine Learning Made Easy

First and foremost, responsive search ads are designed as an easy-to-use platform to help advertisers leverage the power of machine learning more easily, and machine learning works. In a post on Google’s blog from July 10, 2018, Google states:

On average, advertisers who use Google’s machine learning to test multiple creative see up to 15 percent more clicks.

Rather than manually identifying, configuring, and monitoring numerous A/B tests, advertisers can integrate a broad variety of messages to more easily find which ones stand out. A single, fully-configured responsive search ad will automatically test 47,040 different arrangements of your ad copy. That’s a LOT of A/B tests!

More Screen Real Estate

Responsive search ads are now the biggest ads available on the SERP, with up to 300 characters of ad copy. This is double the length of Expanded Search Ads, which max out at 150 characters. Take a look at how the maximum sizes of responsive search ads stack up against expanded text ads:

Responsive Search Ads Expanded Search Ads
Max Headlines 3 2
Headline Length (Characters) 30 30
Max Characters 90 60
Display URL
Optional Path Fields 2 2
Path Field Length (Characters) 15 15
Max Characters 30 30
Max Descriptions 2 1
Description Length (Characters) 90 80
Max Characters 180 80
Total Maximum Characters 300 150

In addition, they can be combined with ad extensions like sitelinks, callouts, and more for an even bigger SERP footprint. With greater visibility and prominence, responsive search ads are likely to result in a higher click-through-rate (CTR) than both traditional text ads AND expanded text ads.

Bigger Audience

Lastly, responsive search ads are designed to reach a wider audience. By accommodating up to 15 different headlines and up to 4 different descriptions, advertisers can integrate a broader variety of messages. With more messages, ads can compete in more auctions and match more search queries. Then, these potential customers are presented with the most relevant and best-performing combinations of ad copy for a more targeted message. Now, a single responsive search ad can reach the same audience that previously required a handful of separate text ads.

How do responsive search ads work?

In order to include all this new functionality, there are several key limitations built into these ads, and these limitations will have an impact on how responsive search ads can be used. Responsive search ads are designed as a collection of 3 different types of ad copy: headlines, descriptions, and the display URL. Google combines these pieces on the fly to generate targeted ads, constantly measuring and optimizing the performance of these combinations.


Responsive search ads can include up to 15 different headlines. Google will automatically select and display a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 3 headlines, and these headlines can appear in any order. When creating an ad you must include a minimum of 3 options, but in order to get the best results they recommend taking it a little further by creating at least 5 headlines.


Responsive search ads can also include up to 4 different descriptions. Just like the headlines, Google will choose from these options and display a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 2 descriptions in each ad. These descriptions can also appear in any order, so make sure that they make sense individually and in combination.

Display URLs

The fields for Display URL are the same on responsive search ads as they are for expanded text ads. The domain is filled in automatically, but you can also optionally include up to 2 additional path fields. This URL helps potential customers better understand where they will land on your site. These fields are not randomized in any way. An example display URL with both path fields filled in might look like: “”

Pinning Headlines and Descriptions

While the default behavior of headlines and descriptions is to show them in any order, it is possible to pin them to specific positions within your ad. When a headline or description is pinned to a specific position, it will always display in that location. However, multiple pieces of content can be pinned to the same location to provide additional variations. For example, imagine you would like your headline to ALWAYS start with “Company Name”. If you pin the “Company Name” headline to position 1, every ad will display “Company Name” as the first headline. Pinning an additional headline like “Company Name Online” in position 1 will now show some customers “Company Name” and others “Company Name Online”.

If you are planning on pinning headlines or descriptions to ensure certain copy is ALWAYS in your ad, be sure to consider the position carefully. With 3 headline positions and 2 description positions, the last positions of each are not always displayed. Depending on the size of your combinations and the device your ad is being displayed on, headline 3 and description 2 may not be displayed. To ensure your copy is always included in your ads, pin headlines in position 1 or 2, and pin descriptions in position 1.

How do I create responsive search ads?

Creating responsive search ads is a bit like playing golf – easy to learn, but difficult to master. Currently, responsive search ads are in “beta” and only available to select Google Ads accounts. In Google Ads, visit the Ads tab and click the blue “+” to start creating a new ad. If your account has access to the new ads, you will see “Responsive search ad (beta)” in the list. Select it to get started.

Create a Responsive Search Ad

Creating a New Ad

When you’ve selected the correct option, you should see the configuration options. Set up the ad just like any other text ad by choosing an ad group, and configuring your URL. Then, begin adding copy by entering headlines and descriptions.

Editing a Responsive Search Ad

This is where it can get challenging. Avoid creating repetitive headlines and descriptions, because Google will not display them, and they may not even approve your ad. Google’s documentation highlights these tips for creating descriptions and headlines:

  • Number of Headlines and Descriptions
    • Provide at least 5 distinct headlines that don't repeat the same or similar phrases.
    • Providing at least 8-10 headlines is best. The more headlines you provide, the more options there are to assemble your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.
    • Add at least 2 distinct descriptions. Remember, responsive search ads could show up to two descriptions at a time.
  • Use of Keywords
    • Be sure to include a keyword in 2 headlines.
    • Be sure to have at least another 3 headlines that do NOT include your keywords. Try highlighting additional product or service benefits and features, a problem you're solving, or highlight shipping and return information.
  • Headline Length
    • Try creating headlines of different lengths. Don't try to maximize the character count in every headline.

Example Responsive Search Ads

To provide examples of these internet marketing concepts in action, Google’s Help Center article about creating responsive search ads highlights a few helpful examples:

Good Example

These ads demonstrate a good variety of headlines and descriptions, with minimal repetition and redundancy. The Google Ads platform is able to mix-and-match many of these to find the combinations with the best performance.

Headlines & Descriptions


  1. STORE
  2. Fashionable and Comfortable
  3. Trendsetting Women's Shoes
  4. Buy Online Today
  5. Free Shipping
  6. Top Brands at Great Prices
  7. Official STORE Website
  8. {KeyWord:Women’s Shoes}
  9. A Style for Every Occasion
  10. Buy With Confidence


  1. Find all your favorite brands and the latest styles in one place. Don't wait, order today!
  2. Free shipping on orders over $50. Wide selection of stylish and comfortable shoes.
  3. Shop STORE's wide variety of high quality women's shoes at prices you'll love. Buy now!

Possible Ad Combinations

Ad combinations assembled

Example combinations :

STORE | {KeyWord:Women’s Shoes} | Buy Online Today

Shop STORE's wide variety of high quality women's shoes at prices you'll love. Buy now!

Official STORE Website | Trendsetting Women's Shoes | Free Shipping

Free shipping on orders over $50. Wide selection of stylish and comfortable shoes. Find all your favorite brands and the latest styles in one place. Don’t wait, order today!

Bad Example

These ads demonstrate a poor responsive search ad. The headlines have too much repetition, and there are too few of them. To fix these, the advertiser should add more distinct headlines, and break them into smaller units. For example, split "Latest Women's Shoes at STORE" into "Latest Women’s Shoes" and "STORE"

Headlines & Descriptions


  1. Fashionable Women's Shoes
  2. Trendsetting Women's Shoes
  3. Latest Women's Shoes at STORE
  4. Purchase Women's Shoes Online


  1. Find all your favorite brands and the latest styles in one place. Don't wait, order today!
  2. Shop STORE's wide variety of high quality women's shoes at prices you'll love. Buy now!

Possible Ad Combinations

NO Ad combinations assembled

Example combinations considered and rejected:

Latest Women's Shoes at STORE | Purchase Women's Shoes Online | Fashionable Women's Shoes

Find all your favorite brands and latest styles in one place. Don't wait, order today!

Fashionable Women's Shoes | Latest Women's Shoes at STORE | Purchase Women's Shoes Online

Shop STORE's wide variety of high quality women's shoes at prices you'll love. Buy now! Find all your favorite brands and the latest styles in one place. Don't wait, order today!

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